We receive many queries about criteria for admission to Church schools. These notes are offered as guidance for criteria relating to church membership. Each School Governing Body is by law able to set its own admissions criteria. These have to be fair, transparent, and administered equitably and efficiently.
Governors will have criteria other than church membership which will be considered as well, and perhaps with a higher priority.
Church schools can have church commitment as a criterion. This always refers to the parent(s)/guardian(s) not the child – so Sunday School membership, for example, is not considered adequate.
Governors often define this commitment in terms of:
1. Active membership of a Church which is a member of Churches Together in England or Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.
Some of our Member Churches are in fact Councils, themselves made up of a number of Churches. These Churches are therefore clearly covered by the criterion of membership of CTBI/CTE. (Governing Bodies, please see the note below.)
The Catholic Education Service has most helpfully advised that the criteria for church commitment should include all ‘churches and ecclesial communities that are in membership of any local Churches Together Group (by whatever title)’. Download their advice, but be aware that it may take time for school admissions policies to reflect this.
2. Sometimes Governors’ criteria also refer to membership of the Evangelical Alliance or similar. Please consult their website for further information.
If my church doesn’t appear in these lists, what options do I have?
Confusion and pain can arise when a local independent church is in membership of a local Churches Together group, and the family assumes that this gives them membership of Churches Together in England. Unfortunately, this is not so. As there is no formal relationship between local Churches Together Groups and Churches Together in England (the national body), membership of a local group does not fulfil admissions criteria which specify ‘Churches Together in England’.
We regret very much that this is not something with which Churches Together in England can help; indeed, we prefer schools not to refer to us in admissions policies unless they follow the Catholic Education Service advice below, and include all local Churches Together groups, whether they are called that or not.
A note to Governing Bodies
Many schools’ admissions policies attempt to formulate criteria which would allow the admission of faithful Christians who do not belong to the Church sponsoring the school (eg the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church). These Christians may belong to national Churches, to smaller denominations or to independent churches. They could make a significant contribution to the ethos of the school.
In its attempt to formulate a criterion for deciding whether a particular family’s Christian adherence is ‘orthodox’ or nor, a school may make reference to Churches Together in England (CTE) or Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI). Some schools ask that parents are in membership of a church belonging to one or other of these organisations. We do all that we can to discourage this criteria, because membership of CTE (and, indeed of CTBI) is dependent on a church having what we deem to be ‘national’ coverage, and that necessarily excludes many local independent churches and smaller denominations. Our plea is always that admissions policy be decided locally by either diocesan authorities or the Governing Body. We do, however, welcome with gratitude the advice from the Catholic Education Service (downloadable below) and commend it to all Governing Bodies.
More worryingly, an admissions policy may not mention membership, but may specify that a church should be ‘recognised’ by CTE or CTBI. The reality is that neither CTE or CTBI ‘recognises’ Churches – we simply make them members or observers because they fulfil certain criteria which are related to ecumenical activity and relationships, and to national presence. Not being a member is not a judgment of the church’s orthodoxy. It may be that a mention of ‘recognition’ in admissions policies could leave a school vulnerable to an appeal.
We therefore ask Governing Bodies to desist from referring to Churches Together in Britain and Ireland or to Churches Together in England in their admissions policies.
For any further queries, please contact our Operations Manager, Lorraine Shannon.